By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Led by Mary Curcio, the 10 or so volunteers at Victory Transformation in Oswego offer a “hand up, not a handout,” Curcio said.
Since 2010, the faith-based nonprofit has helped people who struggle with critical needs like housing and food. Up to 12 men stay at the organization’s temporary housing for about 35 to 40 days at a time, which provides a safe, comfortable place to stay as they learn life skills they may lack. Volunteers help with paperwork such as HUD applications, nondriver identification and bank deposits.
“Our goal is to get them in housing and job. and help them learn how to manage income and how to keep a job,” Curcio said. “Hopefully they can move out and stay self-supportive. Some do well; some don’t.”
Her matter-of-fact manner attests to her realization that not every case results in the ideal outcome of living sober and independently. Nonetheless, every success story means one less person living on the street and that makes it all worthwhile.
“The homeless situation is a priority in Oswego County,” Curcio said. “Some of it is due to the opioid crisis. A lot of people are struggling with that. We work closely with the Department of Social Services. The men have to do housing and job logs. They do an individual plan to get them ready to leave the house.”
Victory also helps women who need shelter in a safe house by assisting them in finding a place as well as guidance in finding employment.
“People need to know they can come here for help,” Curcio said.
Victory offers an opportunity for those lacking housing to shower and wash their laundry, both of which are difficult needs to meet while homeless. Victory also provides food to homeless people and to those staying in the warming shelter funded by Oswego County. Two monitors oversee the shelter, which operates when the windchill is 32 or lower. As many as a dozen people stay in the shelter on frigid nights.
The organization operates the volunteer-run Roadhouse Café using mostly food donated by churches and individuals as a fundraiser and to provide low-cost meals to the community. Victory also gives away clothing, linens and housewares to people who need help in starting over.
Victory also seeks to meet spiritual needs with prayer in the Healing Room on Tuesdays and Bible studies on Wednesday nights, both open to the community, along with spiritual mentors for participants in their program.
Curcio hopes to open another warming shelter in Pulaski or perhaps Sandy Creek. She also wants to either obtain a headquarters that is ADA compliant or bring the current building up to compliance.
“We don’t have family housing; that’s something we could look at,” she said. “One of our biggest needs is to provide a van. The men may need a prescription filled, go to Social Services. There are bus passes, but the times might not be the most convenient for getting to work.”
Victory operates with the proceeds from the care, church donations and fundraising events.
“The one thing I’ve seen is people who volunteer here work very, very hard and they’re very dedicated,” Curcio said. “The staff really care; that’s why they’re here.”
Top image: Headquarters of Victory Transformation on East Oneida Street in Oswego